‘The Cladding Scandal’ has affected millions of leaseholders across the UK since the Grenfell fire disaster in June 2017 exposed the issue of flammable cladding. Just 216 out of a possible 11,760 dangerous buildings have been fixed since the Grenfell tower inferno killed 72 in June 2017.
In an attempt to remedy the issue, the government announced funding to help leaseholders trapped in properties with Grenfell Tower-style cladding which needs to be replaced. However, the funding announcement leaves out leaseholders who are living in blocks under four storeys, meaning they may still be liable for the costs of safety work.
There’s additional complication where other remedial work is required such as examining fire gaps or removing wooden balconies.
Housing secretary Robert Lenrick made an announcement on February 12th, pledging an extra £3.5bn to the Building Safety Fund to remove dangerous cladding on blocks taller than 18m, and to provide loans for buildings with cladding issues between 11m and 18m or four and six storeys tall. Leaseholders will pay back the loans through their service charge but these will be capped at £50 per week.
In an “exceptional intervention”, Jenrick said the government was taking a “safety-led approach” and aimed to “end the cladding scandal in a way that is fair and generous to leaseholders”.
Advertising worker Stephanie Lamb, 32, lives in an eight-storey block that has flammable cladding and is eligible for the Government’s five billion-pound fund. However, it also has other safety defects that are not covered, such as combustible insulation and missing fire-breaks. As a result, she is facing an anxious wait to find out if her block of flats will receive vital funds to replace unsafe cladding.
The total repair bill could be around £50,000 per flat. Miss Lamb, of Croydon, south London, said: ‘Leaseholders have been left in the dark and we can’t even prepare for how much this might cost us. I don’t know how they expect us to pay for the kinds of bills that are being talked about.’ She said her housing association, Clarion, was initially reluctant to apply for funding as it knew it would not cover non-cladding defects. Clarion said it was working to ensure repairs were ‘completed as quickly as possible’.
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Arsenal Of Problems
Stepanie Lamb’s story rings true to Rhiannon Creasey, who received an email which reduced her to tears and made her “sick to the stomach,” according to The Athletic. It warned of a potential £4.73 million bill to fix fire safety defects on the building she calls home, part of the Emirates Stadium development in north London.
Since then Creasey’s life has been “put on hold”, the lingering threat of being liable to pay up to £50,000 hanging over her for almost a year affecting her emotionally and financially.
Leaseholders at 1 and 3 Queensland Road and Highbury Square in London were told their flats needed remediation work. These companies are owned by Arsenal FC’s parent firm, and are the named freeholders of both sites – with Highbury Square being located on the club’s former ground and Queensland Road being next to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
The Queensland complex – built by a housing trust on Arsenal land – has 110 flats, houses the club’s community hub and is used by players to access underground parking. Since the Grenfell disaster, however, it has failed safety checks. Ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, local MP and Arsenal fan, said: “The residents should not bear the costs here.” Arsenal said: “We take health and safety extremely seriously. We pay market rates and recharge to leaseholders. This is standard practice.”
Total costs to make the sites safe could surpass £10 million, according to The Athletic, with residents on Queensland Road told they could be forced to pay £50,000 per flat. At Highbury, residents could be liable to pay £36,000 each. This strikes many as absurd, not least Creasy, who stated that “it hurts. A club with all the riches in the world passing on soaring insurance”, in relation to her insurance rising from £310 to £673.
While politicians debate whether leasholders should be protected against repair costs as part of a Fire Safety Bill, pressure groups such as UK Cladding ActionGroup (UKCAG) continue to push for an end to what they describe as the ‘cladding scandal’.
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